My Favorite Things of 2017 - Day #23

Now we're down to the final days of this list it's time to wrap up my top five movies of the year.

#5 - War for the Planet of the Apes was the summer blockbuster most summer blockbusters wish they could be. Yes, it is technically a marvel, but the true genius is that the Apes are better characters, with more fulfilling and interesting arcs than the vast majority of characters in any action film you care to name.

This final entry in the series was just about perfect. Tense, poignant, and brilliantly paced. 

#4 - The Last Jedi Sorry internet, this is what a Star Wars movie is supposed to be! It was fun, funnier than it any right to be (Green milk! Disregard for Lightsabers, everything BB8 does, Yoda!), and took the characters to new places while still respecting what a Star Wars movie should feel like.

I've always liked Rian Johnson's work, and he does a fantastic job here in the face of the expectations of an impossible to please fan base.

He remembered what it meant to be a Star Wars film, and delivered the freshest installment of the main series since the original. If The Force Awakens was a thinly veiled remake of  A New Hope, this is something altogether original, while still following some of the broad beats of Empire. Star Wars is still supposed to be fun, even in the 'dark' chapter. Remember the Yoda of Empire?

For me this one captured the desire to go out an play with your imaginary lightsaber better than I could have hoped for. Maybe the child in me is easy to please, but I look out there and I see a whole new generation inspired to go out and play with imaginary lightsabers. Can't ask for much more than that.

Also, best closing shot of the year.

#3 - Baby Driver It is hard to sum up the genius of Edgar Wright's latest film without seeing it. The best way I can describe it is that you simply have to be in awe of the way the entire thing is choreographed. This movie doesn't just have a soundtrack, the soundtrack is the literal pulse of the film. From car chases to shoot-outs, every beat of the story is in time with the beat of the music. It really is something special.

In other hands it may have been self indulgent or over-done, but somehow Wright manages to pull it off with a smooth style that defies genre. 

It's not hurt by some fantastic performances all around, and a pace that never lets up. Baby may be a criminal getaway driver, but you can't help but root for him to find his way out.

#2 - Your Name Ok, yes, I know it came out in 2016 in its native Japan (and became one of the biggest movies ever there), but it made it to these shores in 2017. I saw it in limited release in it's original Japanese, but you can also now get the excellent English dub on the recently released Blu-ray.

This animated tale tells the story of two teens from very different lives in Japan that swap places in their sleep. One a busy Tokyo schoolboy, the other a young girl stuck in rural village life. Not content with just being a good body swap story, this one twists into spaces you won't expect while talking about family, friendships, tradition, and fate.

Tonally it sits somewhere dead between the darker adult modern fantasies of Satoshi Kon and the whimsical fairytales of Studio Ghibli. You can see elements of both at play here. Aided by a great soundtrack that sways from synth infused melancholy to upbeat pop and back again, I adore this movie. 

In many ways it's something that could only come out of Japan. There is a deep innocence at the core of the story, while also being willing to examine what is important in life. Playful and thoughtful at the same time.

In most other years this would have been my favorite film of the year, but, not this year ...

#1 - Bladerunner 2049 I didn't know we needed a sequel to Ridley Scott's classic dystopian tale, but I am very glad that Dennis Villeneuve was allowed to follow up the superb Arrival with this.

As with The Last Jedi, this is a film that deeply respected its source material. This is an extension of the original, and fits perfectly as a second chapter despite the passage of time. It is slow, methodical, and meaningful in everything it does.

That may be a flaw for some, but it was exactly what a Bladerunner sequel needed to be.

It is also one of the most startlingly beautiful films I can recall. Cinematographer Roger Deakins has been overlooked by the Oscars for years. I sincerely hope this is the year he finally wins, because I can't imagine what he would have to do to better this.

The performances are fantastic in a reserved way that fits the material and the characters. 

I was afraid they would ruin the legacy of the original, as imperfect as it was in some ways, it has cemented its place as a seminal work. In reality, I'm not sure that the sequel isn't the rarest of things - a film that is not just better, but makes the original better. 

That is one hell of a feat. Easily my movie of the year.